Aurora Avenue North Open House SummaryThe third Aurora Avenue North project Open House was held on Thursday, June 8, 2006 and attended by approximately 50 community members.
In an effort to inform the community about the Aurora Avenue North project and explain how it builds upon the Washington State Department of Transportation's 2003 Route Development Plan (RDP), a series of open houses was initiated in May of 2005. The first Open House provided a forum to discuss the various elements of improvement to be implemented by SDOT in addition to gathering public feedback on other possible approaches that SDOT may execute to further meet the needs of the affected citizens.
Drawing from the community's comments received at the first Open House, SDOT developed a preliminary preferred alignment for Aurora Avenue North, which was presented at the second Open House held in November of 2005. This event provided the community another opportunity to view the proposed alignment and to discuss concerns with project staff members.
This second Open House led to further refinements of the preliminary preferred alignment, and the revised product was presented for public review at the June Open House. Informational boards highlighting the project's history and proposed pedestrian, safety, transit, and landscaping improvements were displayed and staff members from City of Seattle, the Washington State Department of Transportation, King County Metro, and the consultant team were on hand to explain the details of the proposed improvements and answer questions. In addition to their discussions with the various project staff members, the residents and business owners filled out comment forms and made notes on a project area map identifying location-specific concerns.
WHAT WE HEARD
One-on-one discussions between project staff and attendees covered a broad range of topics, including the following:
Many attendees expressed concern over the difficulty of landscape maintenance and the possibility that landscaped medians could become littered with trash. Some business owners also expressed concern that street trees could block sight lines to businesses along Aurora Avenue North. Attendees mentioned utilizing hardscaping practices to beautify the street while also limiting the size, location, and number of trees proposed for streetscaping.
SDOT is committed to landscaping improvements which will help create a more welcoming and attractive atmosphere along Aurora Avenue North, which includes maintaining attractive medians. SDOT realizes that keeping these landscaped areas attractive requires maintenance, and that the City's maintenance resources are limited. SDOT is requiring that the landscape design utilize low-maintenance and draught-tolerant vegetation to reduce maintenance. The landscape design will utilize low-lying shrubs to ensure that sight lines to business along Aurora Avenue North remain unobstructed. SDOT will continue to work closely with property owners, business, and residents along Aurora Avenue North to develop agreeable landscape alternatives.
Many business owners objected to the proposed 12-foot sidewalk width, saying these walkways could block access to businesses and cut down on parking available to customers. One attendee expressed concern that the impact of sidewalks on business parcels could result in a partial "taking." A couple of attendees were curious about the need for sidewalk improvements because the corridor does not experience high pedestrian activity. One attendee expressed concern for decreased turning radii due to increased sidewalk width. One idea proposed for discussion includes restricting access to and from Aurora from Roosevelt Way by creating a continuous sidewalk across Roosevelt with a ramp for access to Aurora Plumbing and Las Margaritas restaurant. The attendee noted that this could potentially open additional parking spaces.
SDOT is committed to working with property owners, businesses, and residents along Aurora Avenue North to develop workable solutions that address the project goals of improving driver and pedestrian safety along the corridor. These workable solutions need to comply with the guidelines and recommendations provided in the 2003 Corridor Study. The study recommends a minimum width of 10.5 feet for the sidewalk zone. The sidewalk zone would include curbs, sidewalks, street trees, plantings, and utilities such as street lights. SDOT has been engaged in discussions with property owners to address right-of-way concerns associated with the proposed sidewalk width. SDOT will consider constructing narrower interim sidewalks when roadway and building constraints are present. SDOT will continue to work with impacted individuals and businesses affected by the design to minimize negative impacts of the proposed project. SDOT has had discussions regarding changing how Roosevelt Way functions. However, there are currently no plans to restrict the use of Roosevelt Way as a public street.
Several attendees voiced concern over the loss of business parking, which they feel is vital to support local businesses. One business owner expressed his specific need to be able to parallel park large eighteen-wheeler delivery trucks.
SDOT is aware that construction can result in frustrating disruptions for affected property owners, businesses, and residents along Aurora Avenue North. SDOT is committed to working with these affected community members to reduce physical impacts and minimize operational impacts whenever possible. The project is in the preliminary design phase and SDOT will remain proactive in developing ways to minimize project impacts.
Access to existing businesses
There was general concern regarding the effect of street improvements on access to local businesses. Comments indicate that business owners are concerned that landscaping and loss of parking will have a detrimental effect on businesses. Access to businesses during the construction phase was also a shared concern. Some attendees expressed concern that after the redevelopment, delivery trucks and emergency vehicles will not be able to access the businesses. An attendee inquired about the release date of the EIS, while several others requested an additional opportunity to meet with appropriate City staff to discuss ways to mitigate potential impacts likely to face business along Aurora Avenue North.
Aurora Avenue North is a state highway (SR-99) and part of the National Highway System (NHS) making it fall under the jurisdiction of WSDOT'S design standards and Washington State Access Management law. Aurora Avenue North is a Class 4 facility according to the WSDOT Access control classification system and standards. Within this class, access management measures include the installation of medians to mitigate turning, weaving, and crossing conflicts that affect safe travel. WSDOT requires a raised median to be implemented on Class 4 facilities with more than 25,000 vehicles per day (40,000 on this stretch of Aurora). In addition, WSDOT prohibits two-way left-turn lanes on roadways where there are more than two lanes in each direction.
To provide mid-block access between signalized intersections, the City has planned a number of turning pockets along the corridor. Left turns and u-turns will be permitted at all seven existing signalized intersections between North 110th Street and North 145th Street. Additionally, SDOT proposes to build a total of nine left-turn/u-turn passenger vehicle locations for both north and south bound traffic mid-block, between signalized intersections and at several unsignalized intersections.
The final decision in locating breaks in the median will be determined by several factors, including distance between intersections, safe turning widths, and adequate space for turning motorists lining up at the intersection. SDOT will continue to seek input from business owners as it refines the preliminary design. For those businesses with special needs, SDOT will meet with the business owners to discuss ways of accommodating deliveries. Possible options could include consolidation and/or widening driveways to manage delivery activities.
Turn Lanes and Medians
There were very specific requests for a left turn lane from northbound Aurora Avenue North into Town and Country Chrysler Jeep, a widening of Aurora Avenue North at N 115th St intersection to permit separate right and left turn lanes, and for fewer or narrower medians.
Aurora Avenue North is a Class 4 facility according to the WSDOT Access control classification system and standards. Access management measures required for this class include the installation of medians to mitigate turning, passing, and crossing conflicts that affect safe travel. WSDOT requires a raised median to be implemented on Class 4 facilities with more than 25,000 vehicles per day (40,000 on this stretch of Aurora). A median is required for this project based on high volumes of vehicles, high accident rates, number of access driveways, and the number of lanes. Under these design guidelines, a median is required.
SDOT will continue to seek input from business owners as it refines the preliminary design and the final decision in locating breaks in the median will be determined by several factors, including distance between intersections, safe turning widths, and adequate space for turning motorists lining up at the intersection. For those businesses with specific request such as Town and Country Chrysler Jeep, SDOT will meet with the business owners to discuss their access issues.
Many attendees voiced concern over loss of parking and traffic lanes for Business Access & Transit (BAT) lanes. One attendee suggested the BAT lanes be in effect only during peak traffic times and open to traffic during other times. Another attendee expressed her love of the BAT lanes. Additionally, one attendee mentioned that schools and public safety should receive funding before transit and that this project will need to ensure that properties along Aurora Avenue North do not decrease in value.
Aurora Avenue North is a major transit corridor for the region and is one component of the region's transportation system, which includes the Interstate 5 corridor and the Light Rail system currently under construction. As part of this regional transportation system, Aurora Avenue North has been identified as a candidate for a future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) investment. The BAT lanes will also enhance the capacity and safety of the remaining travel lanes by removing slower moving buses from the stream of general traffic and allowing space for cars turning right from or onto Aurora Avenue North to speed up or slow down. At this time, both northbound and southbound BAT lanes will be in effect 24 hours a day; however, SDOT will closely monitor traffic to see if changes in the restrictions are warranted.